Johnson reeled in teammate Jeff Gordon, who had
dominated Sunday's race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, to win for the
second consecutive week. He took four tires on the final pit stop,
chased Gordon for 17 laps, then finally sailed past his Hendrick
Motorsports teammate with 17 laps to go to wrap up the win.
"No luck involved in that one, my friend," crew
chief Chad Knaus told Johnson.
The win was the 49th victory of Johnson's
career and fourth at Las Vegas. It also made the four-time defending
champion the all-time winningest driver on 1.5-mile speedways with 15
victories — one more than Gordon, Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty.
Gordon dominated the race, leading 218 of the
267 laps while searching for his first victory in almost a year. He was
out front when Kevin Conway's spin brought out the final caution, and
debated pitting strategy with crew chief Steve Letarte.
The call was made at the last second for Gordon
to come in, and Letarte changed just two tires to get Gordon back on
track before the competition. Knaus called for four tires in a decision
that put Johnson in fourth on the restart.
Clint Bowyer, who didn't pit, restarted as the
leader with 34 laps to go and the Hendrick cars immediately split him to
move back to the front. Gordon held the top spot for 17 trips around
the track, but fretted several times as Johnson looked both inside and
"Not much we can do about those four tires,"
Gordon told his crew. "We'll give it everything we've got."
"I'm with you," Letarte replied. "Just do the
best you can. Make it hard for him, either way."
Gordon tried to hold off Johnson, but he
finally scooted past with 17 laps to go. He quickly pulled away, and
Gordon was unable to hold off Kevin Harvick as he faded to third.
"If we won the race, we'd look like geniuses,
Steve would have. The fact that we lost the race, now Chad looks like a
genius," Gordon said. "I talked to Steve briefly after the race. He's
pretty upset obviously. I think he just felt like more people were gonna
take two tires. Shoot, we were thinking for a split second to stay out.
"I felt like we needed to come in and get some
tires, but I felt like two tires was the right call, too. We just
needed (Johnson) to take two. They did the opposite of us. That won the
race for them."
Harvick, who finished second to Johnson for
the second consecutive week, said his Richard Childress Racing team has
nothing to prove to Johnson.
"We can run with them, and they know it," he
The roles were reversed a week ago in
California, when a lucky caution put Johnson in the lead. He had Harvick
chasing him over the final laps, and Harvick appeared poised to take
the win until he brushed the wall late to fall out of contention.
That win frustrated the competition, which has
grown tired of Johnson's four-year reign.
"When you're a good team, like last week,
people were talking about, 'Man, look how lucky they are,'" Gordon said
of his teammate. "That's not luck. You do everything you can as a team
right, and when everything is clicking, good things happen."
But Gordon, for the first time maybe since his
classic 2007 battle with Johnson for the championship, thinks his team
can keep pace with his one-time protege.
"I'm disappointed, but at the same time, you
know, we haven't dominated like this in a very, very long time," he
said. "I'm very really excited about this race team. I think we've got
more of what we showed today that, that we're going to show a lot more. I
think we're just starting to tap into it."
Mark Martin finished fourth to give Hendrick
three cars in the top-10. Matt Kenseth was fifth and was followed by Joey
Logano, Tony Stewart, Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle.
Defending race-winner Kyle Busch was flagged
for speeding on pit road and finished 15th. Big brother Kurt, who
started from the pole, was caught in an early accident with Daytona 500
winner Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya and finished 35th.
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